Shares of McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) fell 2 percent to $89.76 in Monday’s premarket trading.
U.S. fast food giant McDonald's will open its first ever vegetarian-only restaurant in India by the middle of next year, said a report by AFP on Wednesday, in an attempt to retake the top spot as the world's largest fast food chain, which it lost to Subway last year.
The new outlet will reportedly be set up near the Golden Temple in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in northern India, where religious authorities have forbidden consumption of meat at the shrine.
"It will be the first time we have opened a vegetarian restaurant in the world," said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald's in northern India, to AFP.
"A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites," Maini later added.
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According to the Wall Street Journal, India is presently a relatively small market for McDonald's, as many of its popular beef-based products such as the Big Mac are religiously unacceptable in the country.
Although McDonald's have already dropped both beef and pork from its Indian menus, the company presently runs just 270 restaurants in a country that has a population of 1.2 billion people. Comparatively, a competitor such as Yum Brands Inc, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, has about 480 locations in India.
"We (McDonald's) plan to nearly double the number of outlets to 500 plus within the next three years," told Maini to AFP.
"When you look at the potential of the country, it's one of the top priority countries and we're laying the groundwork for capturing the market," he added.
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But McDonald's will not be the first foreign food chain to take meat off its menu in some of its Indian stores. Subway, which has 280 outlets across India, opened its first entirely vegetarian restaurant in the affluent state of Punjab on Tuesday, while Domino's Pizza also has pure vegetarian outlets in some neighbourhoods of Mumbai and Gujarat.
Last year, Subway had surpassed McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain in terms of units, by opening 33,749 restaurants worldwide compared to McDonald's 32,737.
ccording to the Financial Times, more and more foreign fast food chains are beginning to open outlets in India, where the fast food market is valued at over $12 billion, while just 5 percent of the entire market is made up of organized chain restaurants.
The article was first published by Economy Watch.